adding to a flock with a history of marek's

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by poonam, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. poonam

    poonam Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    Hi folks,

    i'm looking to hear from folks with a small backyard flock who've had marek's in their flock. I would like to add vaccinated pullets to my flock, but i've had a couple of pullets who had marek's — we had to cull. I have another survivor pullet who is vaccinated but has been exposed. She is not showing typical signs (yet) and will be living with the new pullets when i get them.

    any advice on how long to wait, what to do would be appreciated.

    any thoughts on what your experience has been is also appreciated. this is my first flock and it's been a disheartening loss.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011
  2. MKingsolver

    MKingsolver Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 10, 2011
    Rainy Western WA
    Hi Poonam, welcome to BYC! Unfortunately Marek's is something that I'm currently dealing with in my small, and getting smaller, flock. I had an EE rooster that was euthanized and necropsied last Thursday. The findings were consistent with Marek's as were the symptoms. Then on Saturday, my husband culled one of my BO's who had a large tumor about halfway down her back, was limping/tripping over her wing, and had some weird stuff going on with her eyes. Now today...I have a Mottled Java pullet who was showing symptoms this morning that I brought into the "hospital." She is not doing well, not very interested in eating, but does seem to be interested in drinking. I'm treating her with Hypericum as mentioned in the is Day 1 of the treatment, we will see how it goes. To the best of my knowledge, I believe the original carrier to be the BO pullet that we culled who was supposedly vaccinated. [​IMG]

    Anyhow, I'm at a loss as of what to do next. Part of me wants to remain hopeful that we won't have any more casualties and another part of me says don't be so naive. There is a local breeder that has vaccinated pullets for sale and I'm considering keeping them in the basement until I know for sure that they're out of the danger period. I've also considered culling my whole flock, disinfecting everything, and just waiting a few months to buy vaccinated pullets but I just can't bring myself to cull the ones that aren't showing symptoms. I've raised most of them from day old chicks and I just can't do it.

    I really feel for what you're going through and want you to know that you are not alone. Unfortunately there are a lot of fellow BYC'ers going through this very same thing and I hope that we can all give each other the strength to get through this. [​IMG]

    This was all supposed to be a fun venture for us to learn where our food comes from and have some pets with perks...not so fun anymore.
    baunlee likes this.
  3. poonam

    poonam Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    hey there. Thanks for writing in. I am sorry to hear about your losses, and i feel you about the difficulties of thinking about culling birds that aren't showing symptoms, or show very minor symptoms. like in your case, my original carrier pullet was also supposedly vaccinated. I nursed her for 3 weeks before we put her down and sent her over for a necropsy. We tried hypericum also, and a strong vitamin therapy. My understanding is that very few recover. If they have the skin type marek's, they have a chance of surviving. Mine have the tumor kind, so unfortunately, when i see signs of it, i have no hope of recovery. they are so good at hiding their illnesses.

    I am down to two, of which we may have to cull one because she is showing strong symptoms off an on, and i'm really worried about all the active virus shedding that's going on right now while she's showing symptoms.

    My plan is to cull her (very sad, but necessary), and clean/disinfect the coop really good while pampering the one chicken that i'm left with — that one poor thing.

    I'm also going to take out the top 6 inches of the soil in their caged run and put in sand. A BYC friend told me that it really helps with disease control.

    If the remaining one shows no signs for a month, i may go ahead and get vaccinated pullets. Rhode Island Red's were recommended as a strong hardy breed but i'm going to do more research on any breeds that are strong in the face of marek's. If she shows signs also during this month, we may cull her (again, sad but necessary), disinfect and maybe get pullets next year after resting the space a little.

    I have a wonderful person helping me to think this through right now, when she can. I will certainly post what she shares here so it can be helpful to you too.

    let me know what you decide to do, i'd love to stay in the loop. I know it's no fun right now... same here, this is my first flock too. but through the discouragement, i have learnt a lot, reading obsessively about marek's and all other diseases that I thought she had before the necropsy proved otherwise.

  4. Elite Silkies

    Elite Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 17, 2009
    My Coop
    I know it's easier said than done when it comes to hearing cull your flock and start over. I personally, if I only had a couple of birds left, I would cull those birds, disinfect the coops and let them set for several months with additional cleanings in between, and then start all over with vaccinated chicks.
  5. DTRM30

    DTRM30 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 25, 2009
    Good Luck ... [​IMG] I haven't had to deal with that (yet) - that I am aware of anyway - I've got a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated birds - the unvaccinated were mingled with the vaccinated as chicks though - so I'm hoping that some of the vaccine virus was shed and the others picked up some of it - (I'm sure I'm waaay off on that, but ..... I can hope, right ? )

    Sorry I don't have any advice for you .... I'm sure others will reply that have dealt with it though ....

    From what I've read - disinfecting the coop won't make a difference if you have a bird who is a carrier as they will shed the disease for their whole life.

    If it was me, I'd disinfect - and get vaccinated birds - and hope for the best - and not beat myself up over the losses if they occur - but that's just me. Don't get me wrong, I love my girls, but I've learned that there are more things out there that can harm a chicken that you can count - I do my best to protect them but sometimes things happen that you just have no control over.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I have not had to deal with Marek's, but I can give some information on it. The vaccination does not prevent them getting Marek's. It is actually Turkey Marek's and prevents the formation of the tumors that cause the problems. A chick that is vaccinated can still get Marek's and can still give Marek's to other chickens. It just will not suffer from Marek's.

    Chicks need to be vaccinated as soon as they hatch and need to be kept away from other chickens for a while so the vaccine can take effect. I don't know how long that while is, but if they are exposed to Chicken Marek's too soon, they can still get it, show symptoms and suffer from it, even if they have been vaccinated. If you get vaccinate chicks from a hatchery, you need to set the brooder up well away from the other chickens so they don't get exposed to it too early.

    Not all chickens that have Marek's show symptoms. A chicken, whether vaccinated or not, can have Marek's and give it to other chickens without showing symptoms itself. If one chicken in your flock has Marek's it is almost certain that every chicken in your flock has Marek's and is a carrier.

    I've seen where Marek's can last in the environment for at least 12 months. If you remove all your chickens and disinfect, you still need to wait at least 12 months before you bring in any more chickens.

    Marek's can spread several different ways. A real common way is through the air from dander given off from infected birds. If you bring in vaccinated chicks they need to be kept where they don't even share air with the infected chickens.

    Marek's is a nasty one that makes it hard. The way I see it, if you have Marek's in your flock, you have two choices if you want to have chickens. Depopulate and wait at least a year before you bring in any more chickens. Or make sure all chicks are vaccinated at hatch and kept well away from the older birds until the vaccine takes effect. But if you are ethical, that means you have an infected flock and can transmit it to other flocks. You can sell eggs but you cannot sell chickens and you have to be aware that you could spread it if you don't take biosecurity precautions, such as not wearing the same clothing, especially shoes, around your chickens and then in the general public.

    I feel bad for anyone with Marek's in their flock. It does take away a lot of the pleasure of having chickens.
  7. poonam

    poonam Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2011
    Oakland, CA
    thank you for your responses.

    i do prefer to stay away from this overly devastating view of marek's, just for the sake of being realistic, and also because it's not accurate to people's real life experiences with the disease. As mentioned, marek's does show up in chickens even after the vaccination occasionally. so very many of us probably have marek's in the flock even if there are no symptoms.

    which makes the idea of culling and starting over everytime, a very unrealistic thing to do. If you're raising 20 vaccinated chickens, and one of them starts showing signs (and the signs are not always immediately apparent, as is my personal real life experience with them), and all the rest of your chickens are exposed and now carriers (With no symptoms, say) — you probably won't cull them all and start from scratch again. You'll probably just find ways to deal with the issue.

    As mentioned, Mareks spreads through the air as well as the soil. There's no fool proof way of making sure that the air is clean, and free of marek's. wild birds and rodents carry the disease. It is *EVERYWHERE*, to say the least. Letting the land rest is a good idea to reduce the load, which is my understanding. But, I understand that we can never get rid of the virus (or atleast not for a long long time). If it stays in your soil for years, there's just no way that it's realistic for folks to wait that long before having chickens again.

    Strong hardy breeds of chickens that are Vaccinated for Marek's have a good chance of not being affected by it. The way i understand it, once you have marek's you'll probably have to get used to having some losses in the flock, but there will be many many that will be just fine.

    I have a small backyard flock so i'm not planning to sell any chicks or pullets. but the fact remains that there are chickens in my neighborhood who may/may not have marek's and there's not a whole lot i can do to control the sharing of air that happens in between our buildings which are very close together.

    so, on a positive note, the way i prefer to think of it, is that once it hits, we just need to learn ways to manage it and deal with it. i just don't think that culling and starting over is the solution if you want to add chickens, atleast not everytime.

    still love to hear from folks who have advice to manage the disease.

    baunlee and Magicbubble like this.
  8. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    I agree wholeheartedly with poonam.
  9. Elite Silkies

    Elite Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 17, 2009
    My Coop
    The above posters are correct about the vaccinations. The only thing they do is hide the symptoms of the diseases and decreases the death rates. The only way I would cull and start all over is if I were down to a couple of birds. I'm never one to yell CULL them all......... If you had several birds I would not recommend culling and starting over because Marek's can find it's way back. With that, you can still acquire any poultry illness in your new flock. The cleaning of the coops, just gives the youngsters a better start in my opinion, so that they have time for the vaccination to take a good hold. As with any vaccination, upon administering it can fail to work for some reason.

    If possible, I would keep the youngsters away from the others as long as possible. May or may not make a difference though. A carrier bird will always be a carrier and there are illnesses/disease which we have no control over.

    MG is a major issue in my opinion, and we may all very well have it in our flocks. We will not know unless our flocks are tested on a daily basis. Unless someone test 100% of their birds in this manner, in my opinion, they still can not say they are MG free.

    Even with NPIP, as each year passes, they test a lesser percentage of birds for certain diseases, so who's to say that one of the untested ones is a carrier of a disease and it was just missed because that bird wasn't in the tested percentage required.

    Wild birds carry many different diseases that they spread to your flock. Unless, we have the ability to build a wild bird free coop, we can't protect them against the illnesses these wild birds carry.

    I don't even think the Commercial operations are able to keep out the wild birds 100% of the time.
  10. ReikiStar

    ReikiStar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Do not forget that chickens can develop IMMUNITY to Mareks. That's WHY you vaccinate. You introduce the virus so the body can build up an immunity. Those who were vaccinated but later developed the disease were probably exposed to the virus too soon after being vaccinated. I've heard you need to wait anywhere from 10 to 14 days after the vaccination before allowing newly vaccinated chicks to encounter the virus. Chicks who were never vaccinated can also develop immunity, it just takes longer.

    I have not heard of asymptomatic chickens going on to become carriers. From the information I have, there are always symptoms but a few might survive. Those survivors will be carriers. But chickens who have immunity will not display symptoms because they have fought it off. So in my opinion, if you have chickens that have survive, you definitely want to keep those because they mostly like have immunity!

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